This service was prepared as a pastoral response to a series of deaths, illnesses, and other traumatic events suffered by our congregation over a short period of time. The lights of the sanctuary were dimmed. A table was set up in front of the pulpit and draped with purple and black cloth. The pulpit Bible served as centerpiece, surrounded by approximately fifty (unlit) votive candles in clear glass containers. A cross was set up in a front corner of the sanctuary with a small table draped in purple in front of it. A Christ candle was lit on this table. Contemplative artwork was displayed on the video screen prior to the service.
God Gathers Us for Worship
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God the Father,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with you all.
And also with you.
Our souls are filled with bitterness;
our lives are bereft of peace;
we have forgotten what happiness is.
Our souls are bowed down within us.
But this we call to mind,
and therefore we have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is his faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.
It is good that we should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
Let us lift up our hearts
as well as our hands
to God in heaven.
—based on Lamentations 3:17-26
“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” (st. 1, 3) PsH 556, PH 276, RL 155, TH 32, TWC 60
“Holy, Holy, Holy” SNC 19
God of eternity;
our refuge and our hope
from one generation to another:
before the mountains rose from the sea,
before the rivers carved out the valleys,
you are God—eternal.
From dust we came, to dust we return.
So, O Lord, you have ordered our ways.
A thousand years in your sight are as yesterday.
As a watch in the night comes quickly to an end,
so the years pass before you—
like grass which in the morning is green
and by evening is dried up and withered.
The decades pass—a mere handful.
We enjoy some vigor, but even that soon disappears.
So much of our span is wearisome,
full of labor and sorrow.
O Lord, teach us to number our days,
and apply our hearts to wisdom.
Turn again, O God, do not delay:
give grace to your servants.
Satisfy us with your lovingkindness.
Grant us joy and gladness in our lives.
Give us gladness to make up for the times of suffering.
Shower us with your grace.
Let your favor be upon us
and prosper the work of our hands.
Renew us in the grace of Jesus;
visit us with his Spirit.
Refresh our burdened hearts;
restore our tired minds. Amen.
—based on Psalm 90
Response: “Open Our Eyes, Lord” SNC 80, TWC 536
God Encourages Us
Through His Word
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 61:1-3; Matthew 11:25-30
Sermon: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”
(for the complete text of the sermon, visit www.calvincrc.ca/sermons.htm)
Hymn: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” PsH 579, PH 403, RL 507, SFL 52, TH 629, TWC 622
We Present Ourselves to the Lord
Hear our prayer, O Lord. Let our cries come to you.
Do not hide your face from us in the day of our distress. Incline your ear to us. Answer us speedily in the day when we call.
For our days pass away like smoke. Our hearts are stricken and withered like grass. Our days are like an evening shadow; we wither away like grass.
But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever; your name endures to all generations. You regard the prayer of the destitute; you look from your holy height and hear the groaning of your people.
You laid the foundation of the earth. The heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you endure; they will all wear out like a garment. But you are the same, and your years have no end.
Grant us, your servants, security.
Establish us in your presence. Through Christ. Amen.
—based on Psalm 102
“Psalm 42: As a Deer” (st. 1) PsH 42
“Comfort, Comfort Now My People” (st. 1) PsH 194, PH 3, RL 169, SFL 121, TWC 132
“Psalm 42: As a Deer” (st. 3) PsH 42
“My Faith Looks Up to Thee” (st. 1, 3) PsH 262, PH 383, RL 446, TH 528, TWC 552
Bringing Our Burdens to the Lord
[Opportunity was given for the congregation to reflect communally on the struggle and sorrow of the last year or to share a burden. The pastor then led in prayer for those burdens and reflections.
The congregation was invited to choose from a variety of opportunities to present their burdens and griefs to the Lord during the remainder of the service:
- receiving anointing with oil from elders standing by
- praying with elder teams in two prayer rooms
- gathering around the cross and lighting votive candles as a symbol of receiving life and light from the Light of the world
- using paper and pencils for journal writing]
A Time of Contemplation and Song
[The pastor led the congregation with a prayer seeking the Lord’s guiding hand and the Spirit’s power to move within the assembled congregation, providing healing, hope, and peace, followed by congregational singing.]
“Spirit Song” SNC 212
“I Will Give You Rest” SNC 70
“Nearer, Still Nearer” (st. 1, 4) Celebration Hymnal 567
[The pastor read Isaiah 49:15-16; 43:1-3 while music of “Nearer, Still Nearer” continued quietly in the background.]
“You Are My Hiding Place” SNC 180
“He Leadeth Me” PsH 452, RL 161, TH 600, TWC 635
[A time of contemplation and silent prayer. During the interlude a slide of artwork by Gwen Meharg was
projected on a screen (see www.drawneartogod.com). The pastor closed the interlude in a spoken prayer for
healing and peace.]
Song: “O Lord, Hear My Prayer” SNC 203
God Blesses Us into Lives of Peace
Brothers and sisters,
what is your only comfort in life and in death?
That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul,
in life and in death—to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven:
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.
—Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 1 (see p. 25 for a musical setting of this text)
Hymn: “When Peace Like a River” PsH 489, TH 691, TWC 519
Alone with none but thee, our God,
we journey on our way.
What need we fear, when thou art near,
O King of night and day?
More safe are we within thy hand
than if a host did round us stand.
—Columba, Irish missionary, c. 521-597, alt.
Sung Response: “Amen, Amen, Amen!” PsH 641
Moment of Silent Reflection